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Church Frustrations - RonO's Ramblings — LiveJournal

Jul. 19th, 2009 05:31 pm Church Frustrations

robot_grrl and I are just about ready to leave the church we've been attending. In fact, if I hadn't been working this morning we would have probably gone elsewhere, and Tara didn't end up going at all.

This morning, I did see an answer to one of my prayers come to fruition (although I've known it would for some time). Months ago, when the church lost its previous worship pastor (who I think was called "Choir Director") due to some internal issues, I started raising in prayer the kind of person I thought would be ideal for the role of worship pastor. This was easy, I just raised the request to bring someone like the worship pastor at Wheaton Bible Church (but not him personally).

Well a month or so ago, I discovered that they had hired/called a worship pastor that I'd gotten a good look at since I was working the weekend he was in for his interview/audition/candidate services, who is just about a perfect answer to this request.

However, having a worship pastor whose worship style I really like will only address one of our concerns over the current church.

We have several concerns. Two are pretty big, the others are probably pretty minor. And I'm not sure which one is the bigger issue.

First, we are just not connecting to anyone at the church. We are both used to churches that have either established adult classes -- like Wheaton Bible Church's Adult Communities -- or regular short classes, or both. But this church only has small groups that meet off site and on other days of the week.

This doesn't work for us at this point in our lives. Between our work hours and Derrick's reluctance to be home by himself (which we may force him to overcome between when we get back from Montreal until school starts by leaving him alone in the mornings), we cannot easily join the same small group. Since we've always (well since before we were married, but after I moved to Wheaton in preparation for getting married) done church together or as a family, this is less than preferable. Also, when I looked over the list of small groups, I didn't see many that would look good as a small group for me alone.

Additionally, while at Wheaton Bible Church, the Technical Production Crew served as a second smaller group for me, the equivalent group at this church has been pretty much a group that shows up, does their job and leaves. We don't have any sort of meetings or events other than at worship or the sound checks before worship.

The other issue has to do with the preaching. While I think that the senior pastor is still very spirit filled, and is effective at reaching and teaching a lot of people, he just isn't reaching us. First, he has a very rambling style. This is really noticeable when seeing him deliver the same sermon three times, but can be seen even in one sermon. Often he jumps around in the sermon notes he has printed in the bulletin. Most of the time by the end of the sermon he has hit the key points, and used most or all of his examples -- both biblical and other. But it has started getting distracting.

Then, he often will be missing for several weeks. This is both because of health issues, and other commitments. But when he leaves or is not able to preach, there is no consistent fill in. These fill ins can be good, but aren't always. And, for the most part, they preach on whatever topic they choose.

When I contrast this to Wheaton Bible Church, I see a real difference. Twice when we were going there, the Senior Pastor was unable to preach regularly -- first when he had back surgery and then after his wife was diagnosed with cancer. In both cases, he both laid out most of the sermon series that were preached, and then had either other pastors at the church (most of the time) preach, or had outside speakers also preach within the series. In one memorable case, the worship pastor ended up preaching after leading worship since the senior pastor realized he couldn't preach late in the week and he'd been working with the worship pastor on the overall service, so the worship pastor was the best prepared to actually preach from the notes.

Last weekend we tried another church. This one came pretty close: the sermon was on track and a pretty good lesson, and there are adult classes (but not many during the summer). But there is a bit of a doctrinal concern with how they treat baptism. Although I grew up in a mainline (Presbyterian) church that practices infant baptism, I see adult immersion baptism as something that a Christian does as an outward testimony but is not necessary for salvation or even church membership, and Tara's beliefs are similar. But this church practices immediate baptism, and requires it for membership.

Many of the other churches I've looked at online don't seem to have any sort of adult classes on Sunday -- and I'm afraid that this model is pretty common in independent evangelical churches.

Then there was one that is fairly nearby, and may have adult classes, just not in the summer, but had a more serious doctrinal issue. In their statement of belief they explicitly state that their beliefs include a pre-tribulation rapture. Since I'm of the "Pan-" beliefs on eschatology (I believe that God will make sure it all pans out in the end -- i.e. it isn't an issue of great importance), I'm extremely reluctant to spend much time in a church that has a strong focus on a pre-tribulation rapture. Further, the statement of belief specifies "soon," which I think is both a theological error (it is not reasonable to say that the end of the end times are soon, or a long way off) and possibly a misunderstanding of the idea of The End Times, which I was taught at Wheaton Bible Church, started with the ascension of Jesus or maybe earlier (I don't exactly recall), which makes more sense to me.

While I'd probably be OK with a conservative mainline church (such as the one in Rancho Bernardo I was a member of in 1998 and 1999), I don't know if Tara would be comfortable with some of the doctrine there. And, at least the Presbyterian church nearest to us doesn't look all that conservative, and all of the pastors are women (more of an issue for Tara than me).

Of course, so far I've been mostly looking in Oceanside. I probably should expand my search (at least online) to include Carlsbad and Vista.

Of course there are a couple of churches that I'd be tempted to try except for the travel distance: The Rock Church in Point Loma and Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. But both are going to be a bit of a drive (~30-40 minutes for The Rock, and more for Saddleback). I'm also somewhat sure that both also lack any Sunday adult activities, but their size might lead to some groups that are available on Sunday.

Similarly, I'd be half tempted to go back to the Rancho Bernardo church as well, but it would be a decent drive (possibly as much as the 30-40 minutes) as well. And, there are the issue I mentioned above.

For the next three weeks, we'll be skipping church due to conflicts (Comic-Con next Sunday, and we'll be in Montreal the next two -- although we'll be at randy_smith2's service during Anticipation). I've told the worship service scheduler that I won't be available in August, so I won't have to serve any of the remaining weeks, which will give us a few more Sundays to try other churches before the next time I might have to serve, or at least let her know that I won't be serving anymore because we're looking at other churches (and hope I don't have to explain our issues).


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Date:July 20th, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)
While I'm not at all qualified to comment on your church issues :) Derek is only 8, isn't he? I think he's too young to be left home alone for any period of time, especially if he's not emotionally ready. It's not unusual, and in Michigan, it's illegal to leave kids under 10 on their own for more than 10 or 15 minutes. I wouldn't force that issue at all...

So I'd add another criteria to your list. Child care available when you're taking classes.
Date:July 20th, 2009 02:45 pm (UTC)
Derek is only 8, isn't he? I think he's too young to be left home alone for any period of time, especially if he's not emotionally ready.

While he does look, and often act, much younger, Derrick will be 13 in September. He'll also be entering the 6th grade this year (and would have entered last year had we not taken the opportunity of moving and putting him in private school to have him repeat 5th grade). I think most 12 year olds and 6th graders will spend some time home alone (and several will do so in charge of younger children). We don't plan on doing for more than a couple of hours at the most.

The only concern about him staying alone (and he has been left alone for an hour or two, the long time when he was already asleep) is his reluctance. Everyone else (including all grandparents) think he needs to work on not being so worried about this, and everything else.
Date:July 20th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
Derrick will be 13

Holy cow! When did that happen? Sorry, I thought he was the same age as P. Instead, he's the same age as M.

Kate was reluctant to stay by herself when she was that old. After the advent of cell phones, and with the knowledge she could call us or Ron and Lon or Steve and Roxanne or other people close enough if "something happened", she got better about it... but often still invited a friend over if we were going to be gone for more than an hour or so until after M was born. She never has stopped turning on all the lights and leaving a radio playing at night... but then, I'm 47 and if I'm alone in the house I turn on some "noise" and leave a light burning.
Date:July 20th, 2009 06:08 pm (UTC)
I could point out about the fairly young girl I met a couple of years ago who now has a baby approaching (IIRC) 1 year of age.

And there are a couple of young kids who are working on their driver's licenses (including my older nephew in Albuquerque -- and I cannot go back until he has it, or I'll have to ride with him on his learner's permit to replay my sister for her doing it with me)

Kids have this annoying habit of growing, and they do it faster when your back is turned.
Date:July 20th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that you've generally attended larger churches (multiple pastors, multiple services, A/V teams, etc.), have you looked at small churches? You might not get the classes you're used to, but instead of needing a class or other smaller group to get to know better, the whole congregation serves that particular function.

I'd also suggest Lutheran churches, but that's my personal opinions showing. Dunno if they'd be at all compatible doctrinally, IIRC the ELCA is woman- and gay-friendly in regard to the priesthood.